Your etiquette guide to charging an electric car

A rising number of car buyers are turning to electric cars for their next vehicle. But public charging stations haven’t kept pace with demand, putting charging etiquette in the spotlight.

Even the most advanced electric vehicle requires significantly more time to charge than it takes gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles to refuel.

With many different types of public chargers available and all kinds of EV drivers jockeying for the same public Level 2 and Level 3 DC fast-chargers, it can create confusion about the do’s and don’ts.

Use our helpful tips and advice to sharpen your charging manners. That way, you won’t short circuit if other drivers don’t play by the rules.

Also see: 2.1 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads, and here’s how much gas they’ve saved

What you need to know when pulling up to a charging station

Before you head to the charging station, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of your electric vehicle. Does your EV have DC fast-charge capability? Even something as simple as knowing the location of your charge port door can save time and hassle.

For local drives in familiar neighborhoods, even a novice electric car owner will soon know where to locate local charging stations and the number of available plug-in points. But if you take a road trip beyond your EV’s maximum driving range, you’ll want to plan ahead.

Using your EV’s navigation system is a quick and easy way to find charge points during extended trips. There are also apps from EV charging networks such as EVgo
and Electrify America that will direct you to compatible charging stations.

 owners can use these same methods to locate the nearest Supercharger station. Keep in mind that the Supercharger network is limited to only Tesla vehicles. However, the automaker says it will soon allow other EV makes and models some degree of Supercharger access.

Also see: The pros and cons of electric cars

Charging etiquette tips
  1. Park at the correct plug. When you find a public charging station, make sure you park at the right type of plug-in point. For example, if your vehicle isn’t compatible with DC fast charging, then a Level 2 (240-volt) station is what you’ll need.

  2. Avoid skipping the line. Check your surroundings and ensure you didn’t accidentally skip ahead in a line of waiting EVs pulled off to the side.

  3. It’s not a resting place. Attention all EV drivers: A charging station does not serve as a daylong or overnight resting place for your electric car. An EV owner will often use a charge point as an hours-long parking spot versus a place to recharge and go. Free chargers are especially in high demand. Public charging stations usually charge extra fees if the system detects a car is charged but still docked. 

  4. Resist temptation. Drivers of gas or diesel-powered cars can be the culprit, too. In a crowded parking lot, the sight of any open electric car charging spot can be too tempting for some to resist. It sounds obvious, but if the car you’re driving isn’t an EV, please don’t park in EV charging locations.

  5. Pay attention to signs. If a parking sign says there’s a 2-hour limit, abide by the rules. Don’t leave others hanging.

Check out: Four valuable lessons I learned taking a road trip in an electric car

Charging guidelines to follow
  • Be considerate. The golden rule applies to EV charging, too. You’ll encounter times when an electric car camps out at a charge point all day or a fuel-guzzling vehicle parks at a plug-in point. Remember, humans are equally fallible at gas stations. So, don’t expect perfection because you’re driving an EV.

  • Never unplug a neighbor. One vital piece of EV etiquette: resist unplugging another vehicle. Would you walk up to someone in the middle of refueling with gasoline and take the nozzle away because you’re in a hurry? No matter how tempting, never unplug a vehicle even when its owner abuses a charging point. Our best advice is to grit your teeth and find an alternative.

  • Spread some positive EV karma. When using apps like PlugShare or Electrify America, alert other EV owners of any pros and cons at the charging stations you visit. This can alert other drivers to inoperative stations, the rates for charging, and even what amenities might be available at a given location. Paying it forward to other EV drivers works best for everyone down the road.

  • Track your progress. Smartphone apps are a great means of tracking your real-time charging progress. This is offered via smartphone apps from EV charging networks such as ChargePoint, EVgo, and Electrify America. You can also use the apps designed by automakers for their specific EV models. With a tap or two on your smartphone screen, you can find out if your EV is ready to roll, or if additional recharge time is needed.

  • Consider not topping off. Did you know the closer your EV’s battery gets to a 100% charge, the slower it takes to gain those last few bars or percentage points of energy? It’s true. This applies to all charging levels, including Level 3 DC fast chargers. Unless you truly need to have every ounce of driving range available in your vehicle, consider unplugging your EV when it has an acceptable charge level for your immediate driving needs.

  • Leave a note. Many of us need to step away from our EVs while charging. That’s perfectly acceptable. But if the charging station is bustling with electric cars, it might be a good idea to leave a note saying you made a quick pitstop and will not camp out too long.

  • Emergencies only. If for some reason your EV gets desperately low on battery and there’s nowhere to turn, leave a friendly note explaining the situation should you absolutely need to unplug another vehicle and can’t explain it in person. No one likes to get unplugged. But emergencies happen.

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